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­Defaced Rothko hard to repair, may take 18 months

Published time: November 22, 2012 11:54
Edited time: December 14, 2012 15:16
Defaced Mark Rothko painting 'Black on Maroon'

Defaced Mark Rothko painting 'Black on Maroon'

Experts say the Mark Rothko painting defaced in London’s Tate Modern in October will be much harder to repair than it was initially thought. Restoration may take up to 18 months.

Pole Wlodzimierz Umaniec pleaded guilty last month to defacing the artwork that was part of a Rothko exhibition in London and is estimated to be worth between $8 million and $14 million according to Sotheby's. He drew graffiti over the artist’s Black on Maroon painting causing significant damage.

"There was a hope among some people that the graffiti scrawled on the corner of this painting would wipe away like a stain on a work surface,"
BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz said.

According to the BBC the ink from the pen however was sucked deep into the canvas making it very hard to remove.

"Graffiti pens are made to work outdoors and survive rain and all kinds of things, so it's something that's quite noxious that has then gone right through the paint into the canvas below," a London-based independent paintings conservator Julia Nagle told the BBC.

Moreover restorers will have to adjust their methods to the techniques used half a century ago, when the original was created.

Restorers say that Rothko is especially hard to repair due to the materials and techniques he used in his work. He mixed paint with glue, eggs and plastic and it will be a tough challenge to match the original.

“Because of the way in which Rothko worked, which was building his paintings layer after layer after layer in a meticulous fashion, the conservators are going to have to remove the paint layer after layer and then rebuild it,” Gompertz explained, adding the it is going “to take a national institution a great deal of time and money to put right."

Wlodzimierz Umaniec has yet to be sentenced and has been released on conditional bail.